"The maturity of a nation, race or society is measured by its ability to appreciate humour as humour," opined French-West Indian psychoanalyst Frantz Omar Fanon. So very true. The unnecessary hue and cry over the legendary Sunil Gavaskar's innocuous comment on Virat Kohli's lousy fielding in an IPL match, amply shows the collective immaturity of Indians and his fawning fans. We seem to have lost our sense of humour and have become too peevish and fretful. This proclivity to take everything too seriously is really alarming.
Wit comes to Sunny as easily as classic straight drives would come to his blade during his illustrious playing days. Alas, people are reading between the lines. I'm sure, even Kohli may not have taken umbrage at Sunny's comment. But his pseudo-fans are taking it to their hearts on his (Virat's) behalf. One needs a certain level of subtle maturity to understand these jokes and appreciate them. This is attic humour, understood only by witty people. We've lost that sense of humour and become belligerent, abusive and sulky. This saddens all level-headed people.
Indians are grovelling hero-worshippers. In no other country, will you find this tendency among people. Hero-worship is our national character, just like spitting and urinating anywhere and everywhere are our favourite as well as nonchalant pastimes, nay hobby-horses. In the south, if you say anything even remotely unpalatable about Rajniikanth or Kamal Hasan, it's doomsday from that very moment. In Bombay, dare say anything about certain personalities or even about the place, you'll be exiled from there like the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was banished to St. Helena and Kangana to HP.
This is ethno-individualism (a phrase coined by Frantz Omar Fanon in his book 'Alienation and Freedom'), a sign of stunted mental evolution. Can you believe that there are 'fan clubs' in England where the Bard of Avon's (William Shakespeare's) alleged homosexuality is freely discussed. Can you ever imagine this happening in India?
Yours truly has pursued a doctorate on Mohammad Rafi and is arguably his biggest fan alive. Yet, when I chose to write: Rafi ke 10 Sadakchhap Naghme (Ten Pedestrian Numbers of Rafi), a host of publications rejected my piece. Finally, the Jung Newspaper Group of Pakistan accepted and carried it without altering a single word in my original Urdu copy.
The point is: We've got accustomed to hearing only the good things about our icons and even an oblique remark is taboo to us. In Bengal, try to criticise Tagore's (sorry, Gurudev's, or else, I may be killed!) poetry or even suggest that he plagiarised from Iranian Sufi Hafiz Shirazi's Persian mystic poetry, you'll not be alive!
Indians tend to get too involved in issues and characters and behave as if they're the only concern in the whole universe. This is basking in reflected glory. Most of the people who're condemning Gavaskar and going ga-ga over Kohli are people basking in the reflected glory of their cricketing icon (read Virat). These people haven't achieved anything worthwhile in their lives. Neither can they achieve anything worth mentioning in the future. By emotionally parasiting over Virat, they get their share of Warholian 15-minute fame and they're happy with that.
Moreover, social media is most perversely pervasive in India. Every Indian is an opinion-maker. So, everyone tries to grab the opportunity to have a semblance of fame, by doing certain things that are invariably cringeworthy. A few days ago, a 23-year-old youth wasted his whole day chanting our PM's name continuously on the latter's 70th birthday!
If there are such star-struck people across the country, ready to take up the cudgels on behalf of their heroes and icons, little wonder they don't get Gavaskar's attic humour.
We are living in a pathologically intolerant country with exceedingly intolerant people, who can't distinguish between a joke and an imprecation. We're in for terrible times. Alack, we've become a lifeless and humourless society and are becoming sullen and sulkier by the day.
The writer is an advanced research scholar of Semitic languages, civilisations and cultures.